MESSAGE BY HONOURABLE VINCENT WHEATLEY
MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
IN OBSERVANCE OF
MEN’S MENTAL HEALTH WEEK
12 - 18 JUNE, 2023
The Virgin Islands joins the rest of the world in acknowledging Men’s Mental Health Week 2023 from 12th to 18th June. Men’s Health Week is an annual observance that aims to raise awareness about the health challenges faced by men and promote strategies for better physical and mental well-being. The World Health Organization defines mental health as a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realise their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community.
This significant event encourages men of all ages to prioritise their health, seek preventive care, and engage in conversations about important health issues. This timing provides an excellent opportunity to engage fathers, brothers, sons, and male friends in discussions about their health while emphasising the significance of men’s well-being within the context of family and community.
The theme for this year’s observation is ‘Men’s Health and the Internet”. This emphasises the impact of technology and social media on men’s mental health. We all know that a stigma exists regarding men’s mental health, and unfortunately, some men are still uncomfortable discussing their problems openly. We have seen it worldwide and here in the Virgin Islands. Because of the stigma, many individuals resign to suffer in silence.
However, in recent years, we have witnessed a significant shift in conversations surrounding mental health. People are now prioritising their mental well-being with the same level of seriousness as their physical health. While the topic is certainly changing with more awareness campaigns and observations, we still have a long way to go to help men feel comfortable enough to speak out about their mental health. Although you might feel embarrassed or uncomfortable talking about your mental health; the bravest thing you can do is tackle the issue before it becomes a problem. Remember, you are not alone. Many others here in the Virgin Islands are experiencing the same emotions and struggling to find ways to cope. Let us create an environment to accommodate them as they speak up.
While we create an environment to speak up, it is important to know and understand the signs that you might be dealing with a serious issue. According to the World Health Organization, there are some common signs and symptoms associated with mental illness such as:
- Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness
- Noticeable changes in mood
- Difficulty sleeping
- Avoiding friends and social activities
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Ignoring personal hygiene
There are many ways to get involved in supporting men’s mental health but for this year’s observation, I am urging you to educate yourself and those around you. The internet has become a part of our society and daily lives. It continues to revolutionise the way we communicate, learn, work and access information. Even from a health perspective, it has never been easier to access expert medical advice, connect with online healthcare providers and also find valuable health resources and support groups.
However, as there are benefits, it is also important to recognise the potential negative impact the internet can have on our mental health and overall well-being. Social media has become a critical tool in our daily lives and because of this, many men develop compulsive behavior patterns and internet addictions. Similarly, social media and online forums can also create pressure to conform to unrealistic body and lifestyle standards, contributing to feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and low self-esteem. In fact, some studies have shown that our overall happiness is decreasing in line with our reliance on technology.
So for Men’s Mental Health Week, let us start a conversation and keep it going. For this year’s observance, I suggest that all Virgin Islanders come together and do the following activities:
- Encourage the men in your life to schedule regular check-ups with their healthcare providers.
- Organise informative sessions or workshops that address men’s health topics.
- Promote and engage in physical fitness by organising group activities or sports events. Encourage participation in activities such as group walks, sports tournaments, or fitness challenges. Physical exercise not only enhances physical health but also supports mental well-being.
- Utilise social media platforms, local newsletters, or community notice boards to share educational content related to men’s health. Raise awareness about specific health concerns, prevention strategies, and available resources. Engage in discussions about the importance of mental health and destigmatise seeking help when needed.
- Donate to or volunteer with organisations dedicated to promoting men’s health. These organisations often provide valuable resources, support groups, and educational campaigns to raise awareness and facilitate access to healthcare services for men.
By actively participating in this empowering week, we can make a positive impact on the lives of men in our communities, every effort counts towards creating a culture of proactive and holistic health among men.
Let us embrace Men’s Health Week 2023 as a time to raise awareness, foster open conversations, and empower men to take control of their physical and mental well-being. Together, we can make a difference and inspire a healthier future for all.